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Army Cuts Specialized Training Program1
February 18, 1944 Washington, D.C.
The shortage of personnel from which the Army is now suffering has led the War Department to drastic decisions during the past week. Because of the inability of the Selective Service to deliver personnel according to schedule, the Army is now short 200,000 men who should have been in uniform before the end of 1943. The increased tempo of offensive operations together with the mounting casualties demanding immediate replacements in the field have created a situation which has necessitated drastic economies in the employment of personnel throughout the United States, and a decision to reduce the soldiers in colleges taking the Army Specialized Training from 145,000 to 35,000. This last measure has been rendered necessary by the imperative requirement at this time for these men who have already had their basic training and a certain amount of specialized training for which their services are now urgently needed.
After exhausting all other sources, it was determined that the type of trained military personnel needed could be obtained only by decreasing the number of combat units or by drawing from the reservoir of men in ASTP training. It was decided that military necessity required that existing combat units be maintained.
The 35,000 remaining in the program will be primarily those trainees taking advanced courses in medicine and dentistry, or engineering and include 5,000 pre-induction students. The students withdrawn will be those already basically trained and on active duty. Seventeen-year-olds in the Army Specialized Training Program Reserve will not be affected, nor will this Reserve phase of the program be curtailed.
The student soldiers now in the Army Specialized Training Program were selected for their high intelligence, adaptability, and potential leadership. They are the type who can be expected to assume the responsibilities of non-commissioned officers and of skilled technicians. Experience to date in this war has demonstrated to the Army that the combat arms, particularly the infantry, need a substantial proportion of men with these qualities to insure continued success in operations. All experience also has shown conclusively that losses are considerably lower in units which have intelligent and aggressive leadership among non-commissioned officers.
Reassignment from ASTP to other duty before April 1st will be made, so far as military necessity permits, at the completion of a particular training course or a term in that course. Colleges will be reimbursed for the unexpired portion of contracts covering students withdrawn from ASTP.
The War Department believes, on the basis of experience, the infusion of thousands of highly intelligent student soldiers into the ground forces, which will see more action as the tempo of our offensive increases, will help to increase our striking power. Consequently, around 80,000 of the men to be transferred from ASTP will be assigned to the Army Ground Forces where the skills and capacity for leadership are now most needed. Most of the remainder will be assigned to other units destined for overseas service. The policy will be to make certain that the skills and the qualities of leadership which these thousands of student soldiers possess are used on assignments where they can function most effectively.2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. General Marshall sent a draft of this release dated February 17 to the Bureau of Public Relations. The press release was distributed on the evening of February 18.
2. College administrators feared that the sudden announcement to curtail the A.S.T.P. would have a serious effect on colleges whose enrollments were already hard hit by the war, especially those institutions which had no women students and no U.S. Navy contracts. (New York Times, February 19, 1944, pp. 1, 6, and February 20, 1944, p. 22.) For related information, see the previous document and Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, February 10, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-261 [4: 308-9], and #4-241 [4: 286-89].
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 309-311.